July 11, 2019

Is CBD Oil Legal in the UK. 2019 Update

By Brian Cusack

The legality of cannabis and its derived products namely Cannabidiol has been under debate in the UK for years. But with 2019 already halfway done, there is still a lack of clarity about the legality of cannabis and in particular, CBD Oil.

CBD Oil legal in the United Kingdom

Britains conservative influence on the legality of CBD Oil

The Conservative Party has been on the ruling seat in the UK for years, and their extremely strict and traditional leanings have made the issue of cannabis legalisation extremely fraught with challenges.

More: Enjoy the benefits of whole plant CBD Oil

For decades, the UK has viewed cannabis and all of its derivatives as a great evil, and the Conservatives have been vehemently opposed to the legalisation of cannabis in the UK. In 1990, the Green Party pushed for total legalisation of cannabis – from growing to processing to sale to consumption. This stance was supported by the Liberal Democrats in the 2000s, and a case for the legalisation of cannabis was made in the Parliament. British MP Norman Lamb even introduced a bill to decriminalise the processing, consumption and possession of marijuana in 2018. However, he lost with 66 to 52 votes against the proposal.

Cannabidiol legal status in the UK 

Changes in the medicinal Cannabis law

Even today, the Conservative Party is against the legalisation of cannabis, its compounds and products. However, things took a turn for the better when the UK Government legalised medical cannabis in select cases, under The Misuse of Drugs (Amendments) (Cannabis and License Fees) (England, Wales and Scotland) Regulations 2018 bill.

The move came after minor patients Alfie Dingley and Billy Caldwell provided evidence of how regular consumption of cannabis had reduced the frequency of their epileptic seizures.

Professor Dame Sally Davies, England's Chief Medical Officer, along with the support of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) and the Department of Health (DoH), conducted a thorough investigation into the medicinal effects of cannabis and CBD.

Today, medical practitioners can prescribe CBD products to patients in select circumstances such as:

        • Children suffering from extreme epileptic seizures.
        • Severe chemotherapy-induced nausea and side-effects.
        • Severe muscle stiffness and chronic pain due to multiple sclerosis. 

Hemps legal status in Britain

British laws about tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in 2019

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is another major compound found in cannabis, and it is a psychoactive compound. While CBD is responsible for the rejuvenating effects on the human body, THC is responsible for the feeling of “high” that users experience when they consume cannabis. This is why THC is still illegal in the UK – it is considered as a type of drug. This brings the legality of CBD oil back into question.

Full Spectrum oil in England

CBD Isolate products

The cannabis plant contains both CBD and THC. Based on the way it is processed, the CBD oil can either be an isolate or a full spectrum CBD.

CBD isolates are those CBD products which contain 100% pure CBD. They are prepared by stripping away all those compounds, wax, chlorophyll and other by-products from the cannabis plant.

Full-spectrum/whole-plant hemp oil

However, full-spectrum CBD is the CBD which is formulated using the entire cannabis plant. This means full-spectrum CBD oil also contains the chlorophyll, oils, wax and compounds (including THC), which are found in the cannabis plant.

In order to prescribe CBD oil in the UK, doctors need to make sure that the oil contains less than 0.2% of THC, and the THC must not be easily separated from the oil.

Additionally, the oil must be formulated in accordance with the Human Medicines Regulations 2012. Circumventing these regulations is punishable by UK law.

Read More: Is CBD Oil legal in Ireland?

This is why many medical practitioners prescribe low concentrate CBD oil to patients – oil which contains less than 0.05% of THC. This ensures that they don’t flout legal regulations.

Cannabis OIl in UK

The stance on cannabidiol

When we talk of cannabidiol oil, we refer to CBD oil made by pressing the psychoactive cannabis plant variety – the plant which contains THC. Although cannabidiol oil is legal as medicine in the UK, the processing, possession and consumption of cannabidiol oil for any other reason is still illegal. The only completely legal form of cannabis oil in the UK is hemp oil.

Hemp is the non-psychoactive variety of the cannabis plant. It possesses pure CBD.

According to the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), any CBD derivatives, compounds and by-products made from the hemp plant are 100% legal in the UK.

In fact, hemp oil is a very common food additive in the UK and is also used in cosmetics.

Where can you purchase CBD Oil?

Customers can easily purchase hemp CBD oil both in physical stores and online. Hemp oil is one of the most preferred oils used for baking in the UK. Health care food conglomerate Holland and Barrett are the primary sellers of CBD food supplements in the UK.

CBD oil in the United Kingdom

Legal caveats in hemp

The legality of CBD oil in the UK isn’t a matter in black and white. There are many CBD products and hemp products that are subject to different rules and regulations, generating further confusion about their legality.

For example, while hemp oil is legal in the UK, hemp buds are illegal. They are considered a form of drug, despite the complete absence of THC. However, crushed hemp tea leaves are considered legal in the UK and can be sold in stores.

Why full spectrum hemp is legal and Isolates are Not

Similarly, while CBD isolates are legal in the UK, they can only be inhaled or vaped. They cannot be ingested as a powder or used with a carrier oil. This makes the usage of CBD isolate oils illegal. Only full-spectrum CBD Oil that contains less than 0.2% of THC is legal for consumption.

Finally, according to the UK Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD), CBD products cannot be used as supplements in pet food, since they are classified as “medicine for humans” only.

Medicinal Cannabis

Buying medicinal prescriptions from the NHS

The National Health Service (NHS) and the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) have strict rules in force to regulate the sale and consumption of CBD oil in the UK. As mentioned, patients afflicted with severe epilepsy, chemotherapy-induced nausea and multiple sclerosis-induced muscle spasticity are granted prescriptions to CBD.

Medicinal Hemp in UK

First medicinal approved product

Initially, only one strain of CBD - Nabiximols (sold under the trade name of Sativex) was legal for medicinal use in the UK. Today, there are other brands, like Cesamet (Nabilone), which is a synthetically designed cannabis-based medication. Nabilone is consumed in the form of capsules and Sativex is used as a spray.

Read More: Is CBD Oil legal in your Country?

However, the NICE recently gave Sativex a "do not recommend" status because of its low-cost effectiveness. Research is underway to develop low-cost CBD medication in the UK. Additionally, the NHS recommends that doctors use their discretion when determining the duration of the prescription to prevent patients from getting too addicted to CBD. So far, only 7-year-old Sophia Gibson has been granted the long-term license to use cannabis for the treatment of Dravet syndrome.

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Frequently Asked Questions
Is CBD oil legal in the UK?

The only completely legal form of CBD oil in the UK is when it comes from the cannabis variety hemp. All other forms of CBD oil come from high THC strains of cannabis and are illegal in the UK. Hemp is the non-psychoactive variety of the cannabis plant. It possesses high amounts of Cannabidiol and only trace amounts of THC.

According to the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), any CBD derivatives, compounds and by-products made from the hemp plant are 100% legal in the UK.

Where can you purchase CBD Oil in the UK?

CBD oil from hemp can be bought online and from physical stores. Most physical stores are selling CBD isolate products which include Holland and Barrets CBD. Online stores tend to favour Full Spectrum CBD Oil as it is a superior product. Full Spectrum means you are getting the benefits of every cannabinoid extracted from the plant, not just CBD.

Is Full Spectrum CBD and CBD Isolate legal in the UK?

CBD isolates are considered a novel food and therefore do not qualify as a food supplement until they are novel authorised. CBD isolates can only be legally vaped and cannot be ingested. Full Spectrum CBD oil that contains less than 0.2% THC are legal to consume.

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